WORCESTER – Rabbi Mendel Fogelman, director of Central Mass. Chabad, hosted a special Chanukah breakfast on Sunday morning, December 13th, to recognize and honor the armed forces of the United States. “Our award this year was inspired by an act of unusual kindness on the part of businessman and philanthropist, Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz,” Rabbi Fogelman explained.
Rechnitz, who resides in Los Angeles, was on his way to Israel for Sukkot when his flight had a short layover in Shannon, Ireland. In the airport, he saw approximately 400 U.S. soldiers in the terminal. He noticed that all of the army personnel were eating their army issue meals out of paper bags.
Rechnitz approached their Commander and told him that he wanted to treat all the servicemen to a good meal. The commander said it was unnecessary, but Rechnitz insisted. The commander announced to all the soldiers that Mr. Rechnitz was treating each of them to a meal for up to $50 at a restaurant of their choice.
After the grateful servicemen ate, the Commander asked if Rechnitz would share a few words with all of them about why he had shown such kindness to them. “You guys risk your life to protect me and my family,” Rechnitz told the large group of uniformed men. “When I see a whole group of soldiers and marines, it’s something that makes me proud, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
When Rabbi Fogelman heard about this story he was amazed at Rechnitz’s generosity.
Presidential candidate Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina came into Worcester especially to present the Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz Inspiration Award. Marine Sgt. Dustin Waldrep, who recently returned from duty in Afghanistan, accepted the award on behalf of all U.S. servicemen and women.
In his opening remarks, Rabbi Fogelman explained the analogy of the ripple effect of a pebble being thrown into the water.
“Shlomo Yehuda quietly performed an act of kindness in Shannon, Ireland three months ago on his way to Israel. The ripple effect,” concluded Rabbi Fogelman, “is that because of this act of kindness, we are sitting here in Worcester, Massachusetts on Chanukah, thousands of miles away honoring our servicemen. That is a true example of the ripple effect of a sincere act of kindness. We can and must learn to respect and show our gratitude to our protectors. Thank you, Shlomo Yehuda.”